SECOND RESEARCH WORKSHOP (Oxford Team)
"Private Sector Participation in Water and Sanitation: institutional, socio-political, and cultural dimensions"
The Dahrendorf Room
St. Antony’s College
With the collaboration of:
Queen Elizabeth House
The Latin American Centre,
The Development Planning Unit,
* A transcription of most papers presented will be available for downloading in this site.
The workshop’s objectives
The workshop forms part of the first phase of the project, and focused on one of the key aspects of the research: how current national and international policies either hinder or facilitate private participation in WSS. In particular, we sought to identify the strengths and gaps in current policy practices regarding the facilitation of different kinds of private participation in the sector.
One of our research goals is to bring out existing regional differences in the policy practices in Europe, Latin America and Africa, and the papers presented in this workshop contributed to highlight some of the main issues that have to be considered. In particular, most papers addressed the potential impact of the socio-cultural and political context within which current experiences with private participation in WSS take place.
The meeting brought together water experts, academics, and representatives of the government, the private sector, the labour movement, and NGOs.
Paper title: "Private sector participation and its impact on the poor: experiences from developing countries"
Eric Gutierrez addressed Water Aid’s current research on the experiences of private sector involvement in water delivery in the developing world. The research also investigates specific cases where private sector involvement has not been pursued but alternatives have been found. A mix of primary research and some desk studies, the project is now at the stage of trying to synthesise and interpret findings. Gutierrez spoke of both the potentials and his concerns for the possible impact of such projects on the poor.
Business Partners for Development
Water and Sanitation Cluster
Paper title: "Making the public, private and NGO sectors work together: lessons learnt from the design and operationalization of multi-sector partnerships"
Ken Caplan's paper focused on BPD’s efforts to make the public, private and community work together. These multi-sector partnerships, as he termed them, had produced interesting results in many water projects in the developing world. Hearing from as many voices as possible in the design and implementation phase - and providing a space where differing interests could speak with one another is, Caplan argued, a key to the project’s success.
Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Applied Social Studies
Paper title: "Providing Water in
Mark Drakeford discussed the Welsh experience of water privatisation. He examined the introduction of pre-payment metering in the mid-1990s and the experiences of those unable to pay for a constant supply of water. After the regulator was challenged in the high court, “self disconnection” through pre-payment metering was deemed illegal. Welsh Water, in the meantime had transformed from an efficient public service into a loss-making enterprise. This led to the formation of Glas Cymru, a not-for-profit alternative. Though an interesting and innovative development (with many improvements on the old model and a possible “Third Way”), Drakeford expressed concern about the lack of representation of the poorest sectors of society in Glas Cymru’s board.
Plenary session with Eric Gutierrez, Karen Bakker, Mark Drakeford, and Ken Caplan.
Independent Consultant in water and sanitation
Visiting Industrial Professor
Paper title: "Some observations, experiences and thoughts on privatisation in the water and sanitation sector"
David Johnstone spoke from his many years of experience working both within and as consultant to the water and sanitation sector. Offering his observations, experiences and thoughts on this, he expressed concern over inappropriate targets being set in the rush to sign contracts. In particular, he emphasised the problems in reducing Unaccounted for Water (UFW). Often, unrealistic targets would suggest the possibility of reducing this by up to 20% in only a few years. Johnstone also emphasised that improvements to the sewerage network provided many serious problems in private concessions. Investments in the water network provide far greater incentives to private companies than so-called “dirty water” investments. This problem must be overcome.
Fellow in Urgent Anthropology
Royal Anthropological Institute
Paper title: "Evaluating water: cultural beliefs and values about water quality, use and conservation"
Veronica Strang explained how UK water privatisiation had transgressed many people’s perceptions of the important cultural value embodied in water. This had much to do with attitudes towards purity and trust and can be traced back through religious and non-religious metaphors. Any future moves to involve the private sector in control and supply of water should pay attention to the important cultural meanings that people attach to water.
Reader in Public Management and Latin American Development
International Development Department
Paper title: "Public-Private Partnerships in urban water supply
Andrew Nickson presented his research findings on Public-Private partnerships and the poor in Latin America. He spoke of the experiences of Cartagena in Colombia and Cordoba in Argentina. In both instances, he felt moves had been made to help the poor through these PPPs and through increased community involvement. Answering a question on whether the PPPs were in fact pro-poor or pro-cost-recovery, Nickson replied that he did not see a contradiction between the two. Although the poor may experience payment difficulties, and this could lead to future disconnections, he argued that this was a much better situation than relying on highly exploitative water vendors.
L'Institut des Hautes Études de l'Amérique Latine (IHEAL)
Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l'Amérique Latine (CREDAL)
Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Université de Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle
Paper title: "Conflicts in the
Graciela Schneier-Madanes spoke of conflicts over the water concession in her native city of Buenos Aires. She addressed the crisis of the infrastructure charge that was deemed to place an unfair burden on the poorest citizens of Buenos Aires. When this was abandoned, in favour of greater cross-subsidies, the resulting charge was also deemed unfair. Analysing the situation spatially, Schneier-Madanes highlighted where conflicts had arisen and how charging had affected residents of different areas differentially. The closing of residents’ wells, as the network expanded, had also led to people challenging the cost burden for the new services.
Eric Gutierrez is a Policy Officer at WaterAid, the
Ken Caplan currently serves as the Co-ordinator for the Business Partners
for Development Water and Sanitation Cluster, housed in WaterAid's offices
Mark Drakeford is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Applied Social
Studies at the
David Johnstone is an independent consultant with nearly 40 years
experience in the water and sanitation sector in 25 countries. Over the past
10 years he has worked on many privatisation projects mostly in Latin America
and South East Asia carrying out 'due diligence' evaluations, advising investors,
creating ‘virtual water companies’, performing post privatisation
audits on behalf of investors and regulators, and spent a period as Certifier
of Aguas Argentinas. He has recently advised the Government of Panama on the
strategic planning of sanitation services following its decision not to privatise
the national water utility. He is a former Director of Sir William Halcrow
and Partners prior to which he was a Divisional Scientist and later an Operations
Manager with Thames Water. He is the author of 35 technical, scientific and
institutional papers, five book chapters and co-author of textbook on wastewater
treatment. He is currently a Visiting Industrial Professor at the
Veronica Strang is a cultural anthropologist. As a writer and researcher
she has been involved in environmental issues for nearly 20 years, focusing
in particular on land and resource conflicts and environmental legislation.
Her interest in water began in Canada: from 1984-1988 she worked extensively
on acid rain and forestry issues, and was involved in producing Canada's contribution
to the Bruntland Report. Her subsequent doctoral research (at Oxford University,
1991-1994) centred upon an analysis of the environmental relationships of
different groups in Far North Queensland,
Andrew Nickson is Reader in Public Management and Latin American Development
at the International Development Department,
Graciela Schneier Madanes is both an architect (
General Coordination: José Esteban Castro
Logistic Assistance: Martin Langsam, University of Oxford
Alexander Loftus, University of Oxford
We are also very grateful to Alan Knight (St Antony's College), Laurence Whitehead (Nuffield College, Oxford) for his support, to Karen Bakker (Jesus College, Oxford) and Ben Page (St Peter's College, Oxford) for chairing the sessions, and to Jessica Budds (St Antony's College) for her collaboration.
Last updated: June 2017